Windows Live takes a breath

Free e-mail and IM services launched; other services to follow later this year

Windows Live is now showing vital signs. Microsoft last week introduced a test version of a hosted e-mail and IM service as part of the beta release of Windows Live. The new services may placate doubters who criticized Microsoft earlier this month, when Windows Live launched with little more to offer than services similar to those currently available through MSN.

As part of the new, free online services, Microsoft will host e-mail and IM for a domain that an Internet user already owns. Another service lets users configure custom domains. By signing up for the Custom Domains beta, users receive up to 20 e-mail accounts within their domain, each with 250MB of memory; junk e-mail filter protection; and e-mail virus scanning and cleaning.

Though Microsoft said it will maintain its MSN portal, Windows Live is expected to replace MSN as the go-to portal for e-mail, search, and other Internet-based services.

Other services coming to Windows Live later this year include security services and search for mobile devices.